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I know that this post is kind of ‘a day late and a dollar short,’ but I spent a good portion of my weekend with my mom and dad, which is the point of Mother’s and Father’s Day, anyhow.
My relationship with my father is intensely complicated…and it’s unbelievably simple. I love him, and he loves me. No matter how we’ve changed, or fought, or frozen each other out over the years, I had him and he had me, and we were lucky enough to have a relationship.
When everything goes completely off kilter in my world, and up is down, and right is left, all I have to do is go and hug him, and things even out, straighten out. I know it’s an illusion – he can’t slay all of my dragons (that’s my job) – but there’s something about his hugs that make all the bad things fade into the background, and that make me remember that I can do this (whatever it is).
My dad’s a ‘still waters run deep’ kind of a guy. He doesn’t spend words like they’re free – and you’re better off dropping an idea or a question in his lap and then coming back in a few days to see what he’s come to, instead of demanding answers on the spot. He’s the kind of man who has to chew on a thing for a while before he decides how it tastes.
You know you’re in his inner circle when he acts the goof and the clown in front of you. I get some of my playful and pranksterish tactics from having watched him. Every year, our family would sit down to watch The Wizard of Oz together on our ancient television. And every year, he’d wait until the three of us kids were completely enraptured and absorbed, waiting to see what would happen to Dorothy, waiting to see if, this time, the witch would triumph….and then, he’d scream at the top of his lungs, scaring the bejesus out of all of us! And, we’d go and cluster around him, seeking safety. Dirty rat (said in the most affectionate manner possible).
I get my work ethic from both of my parents, but mostly from Dad. He works so hard – too hard. And he’s spent more vacations painting our house or fixing something than any man should. (Thanks).
I spent a different kind of time with him. We used to walk around the yard and ‘visit’ each of the trees, each of the gardens, and I’d ask him questions. It was quiet time – meditative, but I know he’d balk at that term. He’s philosophical, but he’d deny that, too.
When I chose to go out on my own, and become a Reiki Master Teacher and go into business with Dani, he didn’t understand exactly what I did, or why I’d want to do it. And, being a father, he worried (worries) about me. Despite that, he’s proud of me, and believes that I can do whatever I put my mind to.
Thanks, Dad, for being there.
Thanks for having my back, even though you don’t understand why or what I’m doing half the time.
Thanks for every talk in the basement, watching you plane out a new piece of furniture.
Thanks for singing along with the radio – I could hear it come up through the air vent into my room, and I will never forget the sound of it. It comforted me in ways you cannot imagine.
Thanks for going along with (most of) my grand schemes, even though you wondered why I’d want to bother – and especially thanks, since most of them involved some labor on your part.
Thanks for shellacking all of the odd things I bring to you. I know that it’s a lot more work and effort than you make it out to be.
Thanks for being a brave enough guy to ask your daughters what kind of tampons we wanted from the store, and going to get them.
Thanks for thinking that no guy would ever really be good enough for me.
Thanks for all the late night chats. Thanks for always taking my calls.
Thanks for fixing my car before I even knew it was busted. Thanks for coming to the rescue when it busted before any of us knew it needed fixing.
Thank you for all the things that you are: from the persnickety to the playful, from the silly to the serene.
Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!
There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. (John Gregory Brown, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, 1994)
Each year, I struggle to meet both of my father’s rules for gift giving:
Rule #1: Don’t spend any money.
Rule #2: Don’t spend any time.
Each year, in one way or another, I fail to meet those criteria. Except this year. This year, I made my father a keepsake art book — and told him that the money I’d spent I would’ve spent anyway, and that the time I spent was such a joy, it shouldn’t count. His birthday is today.
Happy birthday Dad!
Today, the blogosphere proliferates with odes to mothers. I’ve never been much of a joiner, or a follower of the pack, but I felt inspired to follow suit.
Thank you for making clothes for my dolls,
For remembering that I like chocolate better than anything,
For supplying me with supper when I’m hungry and won’t ask.
Thank you for the beautiful ivory quilt you were making for you, but gave to me when I told you how much I liked it (I truly wasn’t angling for it),
For ferrying me to Girl Scouts and CCD, to babysitting gigs and jobs, to friends’ houses,
For loving me anyway when I was thirteen and so angry with you and the world,
For worrying about whether I’m paying attention to the things that need attending.
Thank you for helping me to grow a compassionate heart,
For letting me know that it was okay to question everything,
For helping me question everything, even when it made you afraid for me.
Thank you for always believing in me, in my writing, in my spark,
For putting aside the common sense that comes so easily to you, and supporting my mad dreams anyway,
For letting me quit eating meat when I was ten and I begged and begged.
Thank you for every little thing that you’ve ever done (I noticed),
For telling me you love me,
For making sure that no matter how things were going in our home, I knew I was loved and wanted,
For wearing holey shoes so that our growing feet could have new ones.
Thank you for every night you spent pacing the floor with me, a colicky baby,
For watching me walk across the stage when I graduated college,
For not complaining (too much) when I pressed you into service helping me with the crafty parts of projects,
For finally acknowledging that my taste is not your taste (you hit the jackpot with the scarves on my last birthday – so glad you went with your gut, and bought for me “what you would never have bought for yourself.”)
Thank you for all the lunches you made for us, and the little notes and drawings you’d pop into them occasionally,
For making sure that we were fed, and clean, and healthy,
For reading to me, and imbuing me with a love of stories,
For listening to the drivel that I’d write when I was a teenager, and the papers I wrote in college.
Thank you for showing me that it is good to make things with your hands,
For giving me the knowledge that we create our own lives,
For letting me create mine, even when it didn’t seem to jive with what you’d hoped for me.
Thank you for your face – when I look in the mirror, I see me, and all the women who’ve come before me,
For drawing the lines we should not cross, and giving us deep moral natures,
For having philosophical discussions with me in the garage – winter or summer,
For surrendering and showing me how.
Thank you for showing up every day, even when you were tired, and boneweary, and wanted rest,
For flying to my defense when I faced Goliaths,
For calling me on all the things I thought I could get away with,
For being patient.
Thank you for every mistake that you made, and for the knowledge that I can make them, too,
For being brave, and fragile, and human,
For every hug,
For every treat on every holiday.
Thank you, Mom, for everything.
Thank you for everything
You ever did.
For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. (Judy Garland)
I’m a perverse creature. On the surface, I am all calm, cool, and collected – a lot of the time. At first glance, I don’t allow much softness to come through. I’m working on that, actually… At first glance, you wouldn’t take me for a woman much given over to sentimentality or easily swayed by romance. At first glance.
The truth? Just because something seems to be true, doesn’t mean that it is…
So, last night, Jeremy and I watched What Dreams May Come – a movie I always watch with a handkerchief. It was his first time seeing it all the way through, and there were a few parts that got a little tough for him. He (politely) didn’t comment or make a big deal out of it when I dabbed surreptitiously at the corners of my eyes.
The movie over, my emotional needs satisfied, he thoughtful, we sat there. We each have our own blanket, and our own end of the couch, and then our legs tangle up and take over the middle. Sometimes we duel for dominance of the middle territory (this increases as warm weather increases, fueled by me), but today we were content and lazy and comfortably entwined.
And then we started talking about the movie. And he said, “I’d do that, you know. Find you.” And I just smiled in the way that only a woman can when a man pledges to do some knightly deed for her love (a smile that’s one part entranced, one part dubious, and one part patronizing).
He was quiet for a minute. He asked me if I thought it would be like that, when we die. I said I hoped so, that it would be something like that – reunion with friends and family, communion with others and with God, the presence of joy.
At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. (Plato)
And then he blew me away. He said it didn’t matter to him – that if he died and it was all blackness and endings, and not the heaven that any of us hopes for or dreams of, that he would have spent all the days of his life hoping and dreaming with me and that was heaven enough.
I pretend that my heart is resistant to melting, but it isn’t. It puddled, instantly. He meant it. That is how he really feels. And it was equally humbling and exalting to know that.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)
It made me think of all the times I lost my patience when he took forever to make a decision. All the times I got in a snit because he forgot to do something or I tripped over his shoes. All the times that he left a job half done (I saw it as half-done) and I got an attitude. It made me think about how that couldn’t possibly feel heavenly. And I wanted more for him, and for me – to see our lives in the now, in every moment, as he saw them – a little slice of heaven. Guess I really will have to quit “sweating the small stuff,” hey?
Seeing our life through his eyes, let me see it differently, too. I always say that we’re building an empire – I think he sees us already enjoying the one we’ve built. I always focus ahead, on all that’s left to do – he sees all that we have done, and all that we are and have. I see the promise of heaven, someday – he sees it now, in the moment.
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. (Zora Neale Hurston)
After I started working at the shop, and Dani saw Jeremy and I together for the first time, she told me later that I was different around him. I, somewhat panicked, said, “How? What do you mean?” And she said, “You’re softer.” And I thought, Hmm – that’s not so bad, I guess. It’s hard not to be when he says things like that and means them.